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I would like to stop talking about youth gambling.  But I can’t, because the problem is very big and getting bigger.

Let the record show that I’m not against poker—if it’s played simply as a card game.  But I must say that poker is almost synonymous with gambling, and the current poke craze sweeping the country makes Texas Hold ‘Em and other poker games a growing threat to youth well-being.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, says, “Gambling has become the most popular high-risk activity among teenagers, outpacing drinking, taking drugs, or smoking.”  According to NCPG studies, 70% of 12 to 17 year olds have gambled in the past year.  (See Margery D. Rosen, “Junior High Rollers,” Family Circle, (February 2006), p. 26+.)

Parents are buying poker starter sets for their children.  Middle schoolers are playing poker for money in their family rooms.  Some parents think this is harmless activity, perhaps even a better alternative than being out with friends, doing drugs or abusing alcohol.  Yet young people are embracing another equally dangerous, pattern forming, and for some addicting, behavior capable of ruining their lives.

Americans continue to believe that gambling is a harmless game, that the money they lose in gambling is no different than any other misspent entertainment monies.  But gambling is different.  It gets under your skin, and it gets under the skin of adolescents even more quickly and dangerously.  Few if any people become addicted to movies, eating out, golfing, boating, hunting, or shopping.  These forms of entertainment cost money and maybe an individual spends beyond his or her means, but these activities still do not typically possess the incredible capacity to harm found in gambling.

Gambling via poker may be a game, but just like in the Old West, it’s a game that—eventually—almost always brings pain and penury and almost never brings profit.  I wish parents could see this.

I say to parents, “Model good stewardship with your funds, teach your children to do the same:  to develop a good work ethic, to save and invest, and to be generous by giving freely to good causes.  And tell them that whatever they do, to stay away from gambling.  Tell your kids that gambling is a house of cards that always comes crashing down.”

Parents, I don’t care how much money you have or make available to your children.  Ask your children if they are gambling.  Ask them specific questions about poker, online gambling sites, sports wagering at school or work, and more.  Find out what they know, what they are doing, and what they say their friends are doing.  Then talk about the bad economics of gambling, the way it masquerades as a game, the way it can, like a snake in the grass, lay quietly and unseen for a long time before it bites you.  Talk to them about honoring God in all that they do, including how they handle their time, talent, and treasure.  Keep talking to them.  And above all, do not gamble yourself.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

The Super Bowl is the number one betting day of the year---this time with legal wagering predicted over $7 billion. Illegal gambling worldwide will more than double that total. Gambling is not just an American pastime; it’s a world pastime.

I know a few people who gamble regularly, usually in small amounts, and of course they lose more than they win. They may be experiencing some kind of fun or gratification, but the economics of their behavior doesn’t make sense.

I also know a few Christian people who do not believe gambling is wrong or especially hurtful, unless one gambles to excess. I always tell them the burden of proof is on them, not me, because considering gambling immoral is a position consistent with some two thousand years of church history.

I believe gambling violates at least five doctrines of Scripture: the sovereignty of God (Luck and an omniscient, omnipotent God are mutually exclusive concepts), stewardship (We are accountable to God for our time, talent, and treasure), theft (For you and me to win at gambling a lot of others must lose), covetousness (God commands contentment not greed), potentially addictive (The Bible tells us not to allow our minds, bodies, or souls to be brought under the power of anything other than the Spirit of God). [See my book, Gambling:  Don’t Bet On It, for more discussion of this topic.]

Football is an enjoyable game, one involving nearly limitless statistics. It’s also a “stop action” game—the game pauses after each down. So football plus television presents gamblers with nearly limitless opportunities to place bets. TV, football, and sports wagering are a dangerous combination. That’s why the NFL is on record with strong condemnations of sports wagering. The League knows that one Chicago “Black Sox” or Pete Rose-type gambling scandal could undermine the game and its legitimate profit making potential for years to come.

Gambling in any form is little more than a time bomb in a pretty package. Gambling in sports is a direct threat to the integrity of the game in terms of fair competition. Wagering on the Super Bowl is, therefore, a bad bet.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

United States Representative Mike Rogers (R,MI), recently called for comprehensive reform of Indian gaming laws, as well as a two-year moratorium on casino expansion. In addition, he plans to introduce legislation establishing a moratorium on creation of new Indian casinos, pending a full investigation of how the existing process was exploited in scandals reported in recent media coverage.

Given America’s current fascination with all things gambling Congressman Rogers’ efforts will probably attract more protest than praise. But his appeal for financial and moral sanity ought to be saluted by citizens everywhere. This is especially true in the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s reported unethical efforts on behalf of tribal casino interests resulting in the latest Washington, D.C.-scandal du jour.

Congressman Rogers is not against Native Americans enjoying all the economic opportunities, progress, and well-being available to any other American citizens—nor am I. He is talking about fairness, accountability, and considered public judgment of something that negatively affects more and more communities. I am talking about legalized commercial gambling, for while I do not oppose Native American interests, I do oppose more gambling.

Gambling operations are financial vampires that suck the money and the general welfare out of any community in which they are located. Gambling operations never produce anything. They only take and redistribute inequitably. Even compulsive gamblers know that the only ones who ultimately “win” are those who own the gambling operations.

Congressman Rogers joins an all-too-limited number of national political figures who have taken a stand or at least spoken out about the negative impact of gambling. Among these leaders are Senator Richard Lugar (R,IN), Senator John Kyl (R,AZ), Senator John McCain (R,MI), and Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R,VA). Lugar worried about gambling during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency a few years ago. Kyl continues to work toward regulating Internet gambling in the United States and his colleague McCain has made banning sports wagering one of his concerns. Wolf has been a longtime, outspoken opponent of more legalized commercial gambling. So Congressman Rogers is in good company.

Current processes rooted in the 1988 Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act make it too easy for Native American tribes to suddenly rediscover their long lost identity, gain Federal recognition, use loopholes in the law, and go “reservation shopping” to acquire land not contiguous to existing reservation lands on which they can now operate casinos. This process is as unfair as it is ludicrous, and it puts neighboring landowners in jeopardy without due process or any real ability to influence or stop the “reservation” assignment. Again—this is not about making negative comments, unwarranted ethnic slurs, or any other racist oriented commentary about Native American people. Such tactics are themselves reprehensible. This is about saying gambling operations should be properly and fairly initiated and regulated.

Some 223 Indian tribes currently operate about 411 casinos in 23 states, bringing in more than $18 billion. This is no longer a fly-by-night operation. It’s big business and it should rightly attract the attention of the United States Congress to assure that processes are not only legal but fair and accountable. So three cheers for Congressman Mike Rogers.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Sports wagering is a major threat to the integrity of sports. It’s what one experienced gambler called “seasonal losing.” Sports wagering is a more than $200 billion business in the United States with the NFL Super Bowl the biggest betting day of the year. Some 25% of Americans say they bet on at least one sports event each year, and Nevada’s 142 sports books, source of the famous “point spread” or “Las Vegas line,” take in over $2 billion per year.

Sports gambling is still a key entry point to more gambling by adolescents and college students. “Texas Hold ‘em” and other forms of Poker are now presented as legitimate sports events via ESPN’s “World Series of Poker” and Fox Sports Network’s “Superstars of Poker.” Nationally, middle school to college age youth are playing the game—online, at home, and in their residence halls—a computer-adept generation growing up with no experience of cultural condemnation of gambling.

The NCAA’s “March Madness,” a month long intercollegiate basketball tournament, is now in the running to displace the Super Bowl as America’s number one sports wagering venue. Betting interest of fans, coaches, assistants, referees, and players change the dynamic of the game, introducing the very real potential for greed and corruption. The NCAA and now the NAIA are positioning themselves against sports wagering because it threatens the well-being of student athletes and the fair play of intercollegiate athletic competition.

Sports wagering not only threatens the social health of those who participate in it, sports wagering can also be a direct hit on the very idea of competitive athletics and fair play. If athletes, coaches, or referees are influenced by their gambling interests or the pressures of others involved in betting large sums on the outcome of athletic events, they may be induced to throw the game. Point shaving, “taking a fall” in a boxing ring, swinging wildly or dropping the ball in baseball games, intentionally shooting offline on the basketball court, the opportunities to cheat for a dishonest athlete are endless. If this happens, competitive sports based on talented athletes, skilled execution, and “heart”—all the things that make people love sports—disappear. All that’s left is some form of schlock entertainment like televised professional wrestling.

No demographic group is immune to the social pathologies associated with gambling. According to Gamblers Anonymous, compulsive gambling is increasing rapidly in all population groups, even among teens. Estimates suggest that up to 90 percent of teenagers have gambled in some form by age eighteen.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the fastest growing addiction among high school and college age young people is problem gambling with as much as 7 percent or 1.3 million teens addicted to gambling. Dr. Durand Jacobs, a pioneer in treating problem gambling, believes the rate of problem gambling among teens is at least 15 percent. Teens are nearly two and one-half times as likely to become compulsive gamblers as adults. Suicide rates are twice as high among teenagers with gambling problems.

• Valerie Lorenz of the Center for Compulsive Gambling - Teen gambling is the “least reported, least scrutinized, and least confronted problem of adolescence.”

• Howard Schaffer of the Harvard Medical School Center for Addiction Studies - “We will face in the next decade or so more problems with youth gambling than we’ll face with drug use.”

• Durand Jacobs, nationally known expert on problem gambling - “There’s not a high school in the country where kids are not making book on sports events.”

• Edward Looney of the Council on Compulsive Gambling - about parent views of gambling: “The attitude is that gambling isn’t that big a deal. Let me tell you, it’s a bigger deal.”

• Arne Wexler, a New Jersey anti-gambling expert - “For every college kid who derives nothing but entertainment from his betting, there is another who cons his parents to get money to cover his gambling losses, another who becomes so consumed with betting that he tosses away an education and another who plunges into gambling addiction. It is far from harmless recreation.”

• Jeff Pash, executive vice president of the NFL - “Sports gambling breeds corruption and undermines the values our games represent. We do not want our games or our players used as gambling bait…College students…have for a decade been the fastest growing segment of the gambling population even without the help of the Internet.”

• Benjamin Franklin - “Keep flax from fire and youth from gaming.”

Gambling is not a sport, but youth often think that it is. It’s a “game” that turns into a moral and financial vampire. Youth don’t always know that you can’t serve God and money, and adults are not doing much to teach them.

Gambling demands that the gambler abandon reason. It’s a venue of superstition, religion-free religion. Gambling is a celebration of irrationality. In a time when valuelessness is valued, gambling fits.

Gambling turns tried and true values upside down. Gambling undermines a positive work ethic and the productivity that comes from it. Gambling also undercuts a person’s ability and desire to defer gratification in order to accomplish a goal. Individual enterprise, thrift, effort, and self-denial are set aside for chance gain, immediate satisfaction, and self-indulgence.

Gambling has entered mainstream culture today because of a collapse of taboos. Gambling is correlated with social pessimism. Gambling flourishes in a culture where people no longer believe they can influence their present, much less their future. Gambling blossoms from a mood of despair, powerlessness, and hopelessness. Life is luck, uncertainty, chance, a crap shoot.

American culture has lost confidence in hard work, ingenuity, and a better tomorrow. Consequently, we put our hope in fantasy.

Sports wagering is a growing youth problem and therefore a growing national problem. If adults don’t curtail this phenomenon we will literally be gambling with our children’s future. It’s up to us to take the first steps by banning point spreads in newspapers, making all sports wagering in any form illegal, and promoting understanding among youth of the dangers of sports wagering and gambling in general.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Las Vegas—Sin City—is now betting it can attract major league sports. While professional boxing has been virtually synonymous with Las Vegas for decades and other sports like NASCAR and arena football make their home in the desert gambling capital, until now, “Big Four” major league sports have kept their distance. And with good reason.

Sports wagering is a well over $200 billion per year business. The Super Bowl alone generates an estimated $2.5 billion in legal wagering in a single day. Illegal Super Bowl wagering more than doubles this total. Nevada operates 142 legal sports books, source of the famous “point spreads” or “Las Vegas line,” and now online opportunities are taking sports wagering to stratospheric level. Online sports books last year collected more money on the Super Bowl than all the Las Vegas sports books combined. Gross online sports wagering in 2003 was $63.5 billion and is growing rapidly.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the NCAA have all testified before Congress in the past few years about the dangers inherent in allowing gambling and sports to mix. Only the National Basketball Association seems oblivious. NBA Commissioner David Stern recently selected Las Vegas to host the 2007 All-Star Game, making the city the first non-NBA city to be selected to host the game.

The NCAA’s Sports Wagering Task Force Report of January, 2005 concluded that gambling is a double threat to the integrity of sport and the well-being of student-athletes. Since 1993, gambling scandals have rocked the sports cultures of Arizona State University, Boston College, Bryant College, Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Maryland. Both the NCAA and the NAIA are taking steps to distance gambling and intercollegiate athletics.

Gambling and sports are not a marriage made in heaven. Point shaving scandals, fixing games, Pete Rose, Art Schlicter, Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder, Chet Forte, “the Black Sox” scandal, Cecil Fielder—the list goes on.

Gambling undermines sports’ most beautiful attraction—the joy of fair competition. Allow gambling into the sports arena and the only thing you have left is faux sports. Not real sports, fake sports, big guys pushing each other around for the show and the dough, no physical and mental prowess, no supreme execution of athletic moves or plays, no photo finish, sudden death victories—just pay-per-view sweating.

The bottom line is this: if gambling makes inroads into sports activities real competition disappears. Gambling is a deadly parasite. Let it in, and sports will gradually die.

I know there is more going on in Las Vegas than gambling. I know people live in Las Vegas who don’t gamble. I know it’s theoretically possible to locate a major league sports franchise in Las Vegas and it not be infected by gambling. But come on? Does anyone really believe that this will happen?

If for no other reason than maintaining an important symbolic statement, major league sports should stay out of Las Vegas. Professional sports has enough problems these days with performance enhancing drugs, prima donna athletes, excessive salaries, and just plain mean, offensive players. Do professional sports really need another image-destroying, game-breaking problem?

If major league professional sports move to Las Vegas it will not be long before Pete Rose will be considered more of a prototype than a pariah. Other players, coaches, referees, umpires, and fans will follow him to the nearest bookie.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.